The Valle Peligna is a plateau in Abruzzo that, in prehistoric times, was a lake. The lake has long gone but the fertile soils remain. Dominated by the surrounding mountains and at 400 metres above sea level this is good grape growing territory. We were looking down on this agricultural idyll from 200 metres up in one of the highest points of the village and Antonia from Vini Praesidium was pointing out the seven hectares of family vineyards which provide the grapes for an annual production of around 30,000 bottles. The business was founded by her father Enzo and mother Lucia. Enzo learned the arts of viticulture and wine making working in his grandparents vineyards. They produced wine for local consumption but Enzo could see the commercial potential of the high quality Montepulciano grapes harvested from the vines nurtured in the rich alluvial soil of the valley. Today Antonia works in the company with her brother Ottaviano.
Back in the cellar, I tasted their Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2017 Riserva which certainly lived up to its reputation. The first thing that is immediately apparent is the dark, almost impenetrable, ruby colour. This is a wine that spends about twelve days fermenting on the skins allowing all the colour of the grapes to pass to the wine. It then matures for two long years in steel tanks before transferring to Slovenian oak botte for a further two years.
At the end of this fermentation period it then spends at least six months in the bottle. All this love and care results in a rich wine with a bouquet which is strong and earthy with black fruits woven through along with leather and liquorice. On the palate the acidity was beautifully balanced and the tannins were perfect. The flavour of cherries and plums rolled around the mouth and the finish was deliciously long. This is an elegant wine which would pair well with any mature cheese or game. The huge tears on the inside of my glass suggested to me that this may be a wine with a big structure and that indeed is the case. Antonia gives this an ageing potential of up to 30 years.
However, there is more to Praesidium than just the Montepulciano grape and I was pleased to also sample their Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, a DOC white wine that Antonia explained is called Luci after her mother. Unusually for a white wine, this is macerated for 15 hours, a process that gives this wine a delightful gold colour. There follows a spontaneous fermentation followed by 12 months maturing on the lees in steel tanks and then 8 months in the bottle. On the nose there is the delicate perfume of peaches and on the palate the citrus flavours of orange liqueur and lemons.